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How Gen Z is schooling itself on sexuality

In a society where the quality of sex education in schools in India is hodgepodge at best and in some places, still considered a taboo, emotional development of a child is often pushed under the carpet. Most schools in India have the chapter on human anatomy in class 9 or 10. But by then, kids are already bombarded with information from different sources such as pornography, media, ads and of course, the Internet. 
 
At a time when pop-ups expose kids to voyeuristic content, it is difficult to control this information explosion. However, the Internet is coming to the rescue of several teens and tweens who want to find out more about everything from condoms to consent. Unlike the earlier generation which clandestinely looked up the meaning of several terms they wanted to know, today’s youngsters can search for it within seconds on the Internet and understand “what a transgender means” or “transvestite,” etc. Several inspirational YouTubers use this dynamic and democratic space for discussions on gender and sexuality. 
 
Take Laci Green for example.The 26-year-old has created YouTube's most popular sex education series, Sex Plus, while studying at UC Berkeley. Sex Plus has well over 1.5 million subscribers. In addition to Sex Plus, Green has spoken at over 100 universities to promote healthy sexuality. She is also one of the 30 most influential people on the Internet according to the TIME Magazine. Her video on consent begins in a friendly tone before getting serious about the topic. “Consent isn’t just hot, it’s also mandatory. Sexual contact without consent is assault,” she says while explained its importance. She talks about issues like sexual assault, abortion, masturbation, condoms, HIV/AIDS and other important issues.  
 
Another wonder kid is Jackson Bird, who is using YouTube as a platform for positive and inclusive sex education. His story is special because he made his coming-out story public on YouTube, via the platform. In fact, he says: “Figuring out how to continue the balancing act of who I feel I am and who society tells me I should be has become harder and harder…I am transgender. Yep, okay, said it on the internet now, so that’s that. Can’t put that smoke back in the jar.” Bird talks about issues such as social stigma that queer people face, coming-out stories, therapy, etc. 
 
In India, Taskeen Fathima’s YouTube channel ‘The Urban Fight’ breaks a lot of myths that are fed to us since childhood. Her video on sex education ‘Things Indian Schools Didn’t Teach Us” has over 5 lakh views and talks about how our parents pretend that sex doesn’t exist. In the video, she educates viewers on the awkwardness in Indian households, with respect to sex education and how parents should impart bits and pieces of information about sex and sexuality to kids as they grow. 
 
According to Purnima Nagaraja, mental health therapist at Dhrithi Wellness Clinic, parents have a duty to teach children. “If there are videos imparting sex education, parents could watch it with the child and let the kids ask their doubts. This will not only help kids be more aware but also teach them the right things, without being misguided,” she adds. 
 
In India, a lot of them lack knowledge on sex and sexuality education as well as the difference between them. “Instead of shushing the child or make any references to sex seem like a bad thing, parents also need to change their mindset. If a kid comes up with a question, a parent can find out the source of the information and impart the kid with the right information to make informed decisions, rather than chiding him or her,” explains another psychologist. 
 
Sex education is more than just talking about sexual intimacy, says Madhumita Pandey, a lecturer in criminology at the Sheffield Hallam University. “It includes reproductive health, sexually-transmitted diseases, contraceptives, consent, gender identity, gender equality and self worth, all of which are important themes when addressing sexual violence,” she explains. A healthy foundation of sex education from a teacher or parent goes a long way to easing the lifelong process of building one’s sexual identity.
 
Fortunately, for today’s young people, YouTube lessons on sex education fills in a lot of gaps that our pop culture leaves wide open. But, that is not a replacement for school-based sex education. On YouTube, the key is to know what to look for amidst thousands of videos that sell sleaze and soft porn. Despite all the negativity of disparaging comments, sex education lessons on YouTube provide a lifeline for teens and young adults to be aware and make informed choices. 

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